Season Three Alternatives: Operation Awesome

Episode 3.04 finishes off the mini arc within an arc.  Devon gets a bigger part than normal, we meet Daniel Shaw and The Ring shapes up as the big bad for season three.  One out of three ain’t good; but Operation Awesome remains a pretty solid episode.  That’s the last time I’ll say that for a while.  So let’s have another discussion about season three, and what might have been, after the jump.

Operation Awesome is a lot of fun.  Along with Angel de la Muerte it makes for an excellent sub-arc before the we get to the meat of the season.  For some of us, it will be the last chance to enjoy Chuck for a long time.  A lot goes well here; Devon is a very funny supporting character, particularly his inability to lie.  While I think that trait, like so many other things, is taken too far during the misery arc ahead, it is very entertaining here.  His “decapitated the bear” story is just a brilliantly funny moment.  I also got a big laugh from Casey’s comment that Devon is the member of the family who most looks like a spy, and Chuck quickly agreeing.

I also really like the way the Intersect malfunctions early in this episode.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not eager to see Chuck spazz out every week, but when it makes sense for Chuck be stressed out, I like that the Intersect would do something different and fun.  I think all too often in other episodes we just see a sad sack Chuck who can’t do the job, and worse, whines about it.  I really would have liked if Intersect malfunctions had been more creative and fun.  Obviously, I’m not too thrilled with much about how such malfunctions were actually handled.  I think having such a broken Chuck for so much of the season was a lousy entertainment decision.  I would also add a big part of what goes wrong with the Intersect is that Sarah isn’t there to calm Chuck down often enough.  I think that was a hugely appealing part of the first two seasons of the show (Sarah helping Chuck deal with spy life) and it wasn’t done in the same fun sort of way in this season at all.  But this just all feeds in to why this is called the Misery Arc.

Meeting Shaw may be the most significant occurrence of this episode.  I don’t particularly object to his introduction, except for how it will play out in the future.  The thing is; Shaw initially comes across as arrogant, stupid and thoroughly unlikable.  This is something a show like Chuck could have, should have, gotten great mileage out of.  Unfortunately, interviews with TPTB indicate they were completely clueless to how the character came across.  This is part of the disconnect that will sink this season.  His arrogance alone could be great fun.  He was so sure he was right and in charge of everything; is anyone actually impressed by such a character?  It could have been so much fun to have him shot down and proven wrong every week.  But instead they will go the opposite direction and try to make him look like the hero too often.  But it doesn’t work.  I don’t think many viewers liked seeing Daniel Shaw save the day.  We had some false hope things would be well done in this episode; from Casey’s quick draw on him in Castle, to Sarah backing up Chuck in their later debriefing.  Sadly, by the end of First Class he will seem to have won over Agent Walker, which manages to simultaneously be poor entertainment and make Sarah look stupid.

Which leads directly to my stupid Shaw comment.  Right from the start, we see him requiring a trainee he’s never met before to shoot him as part of his grand scheme.  He will also belittle Chuck’s plan for dealing with the Sydney, then send him alone on an airliner against two Ring agents the following week.  When Shaw stupidly concludes Casey and Sarah are “what’s wrong” with Team B Casey identifies a more immediate issue, Shaw is a moron.  Again, Chuck is exactly the sort of show that should have been so much fun with a total moron in charge for a while.  Yet the writers try to convince us Shaw is a savant.  Sadly, that was never shown well on screen.

Shaw’s unlikability will be a serious problem too.  Especially since his part will be so large in the Misery Arc.  One of the great strengths of Chuck had been the appeal of the three main characters, and their chemistry/interaction.  The Charah part of it was huge.  Easily my favorite part of the show those first two seasons was watching two such different, yet appealing, characters form a strong bond of friendship and trust.  All while wondering what push it would take for them to be more.  Then add in Casey, his friendship with both Chuck and Sarah was fun, and even better was the way he both antagonized and abetted their coupling.  Shaw mucks everything up, in every way.  He completely comes between Chuck and Sarah, and reduces Casey’s involvement too.  This is a horrible entertainment choice.  Shaw practically sucks the fun out of every scene he’s in.  And his anti-charisma ruins Sarah for much of the season too, especially making her look stupid for falling under his spell until we’re left with zombie Sarah for several episodes late in the arc.

The Ring is not completely successful as a nemesis either.  To be fair, Chuck is never really about the bad guys and their nefarious schemes.  The bad guys and their plots exist mainly to give our heroes something to do.  But why did Fulcrum seem so much more interesting and intimidating than The Ring?  I think part of it was better and more compelling villains, from Fulcrum Tommy, to Colt, Vincent (who may have been playing for The Ring too) and Roark.  Even though Fulcrum’s demise was a bit underwhelming, it was a good heavy for over a year.  The Ring never had such a personality.  In the end, Shaw would be the most memorable Ring agent; and The Ring manages an even more underwhelming end than Fulcrum!  I’m tempted to blame things like never really knowing their objectives as a problem, but really, we never knew a whole lot about Fulcrum either.  Both organizations exist primarily as foils for the heroes; but The Ring always felt like it was little more than a foil while Fulcrum felt like it had more life of its own.  And I know, that is completely my own subjective opinion.

This all leads to the “what would Dave have liked to see” part of this post.  As indicated above, I really liked this episode by itself.  So what I would have liked to see has more to do with the arc and tone of the show than anything related to Operation Awesome itself.  But I would have liked to see Shaw recognized as a complete moron by Casey and Sarah, and had it stick. Perhaps Chuck being dazzled by the hot shot agent who pushed him harder than Sarah and Casey do could have worked for a couple episodes.  But if we assume Shaw’s goal is to turn Chuck into a solo agent, and a deadly weapon; Casey, and especially Sarah, knowing Chuck better; and respecting Chuck for what he can actually be, should quickly prove to be the better team-mates.  This is one of those things that could have provide some good drama and tension for our young couple; as they work through, and sometimes argue over, Chuck’s training, role on the team, and his relationship with Shaw.  I imagine this could have been both more fun, and a more grown up show than the teen soap we got (Gee, real differences of opinion that need to be resolved but don’t actually threaten the relationship.  What a concept!)

Of course the other possibility I see is just a more likable Shaw.   If his arrogance had been dialed back just a bit, he might have been believable as a mentor and friend to Chuck.  We still could have had some differences over what type of agent Chuck was going to be, especially where killing is concerned.  But I think if Shaw had played a major role in Chuck’s training, without being a jerk about it, he could have been a far more sympathetic character when the time came for him to turn bad.  Bonus points if the secret relationship had been in use and Shaw tried to convince Chuck to just let him kill Sarah.  I think this direction could have been very effective, and actually made us care when he turned traitor; instead of just cheering when Chuck filled him full of lead.

For the record, I have no opinion about the actor in this.  I liked Routh in Superman Returns.  Of course now, I don’t think I can ever watch it again.  But I think he would have been okay with better direction in a different sort of role.  As it is; in different interviews Routh did claim both that Chuck fans weren’t going to like him much, and that he was not being given much direction on how he should play the character or what was coming next.  So I’m willing to call it possible that most of what was wrong with Shaw was not his fault.  I do know, that as written there is no actor I would have liked in that part.  I’ll say that again, there is no actor who could have made me like Shaw or his story.  It was fatally flawed at conception; that’s in the writer’s room. Whether Routh could have been the best actor for a much modified Shaw that I imagine making for a better story, I just don’t know. I know many fans, and at least one professional critic, put much of the blame for season three’s failure on Routh; but I’m just not convinced either way.

I want to briefly mention the Charah situation here too.  As I’ve said many times, the only way I would have completely liked season three is if they had chosen a lighter tone, especially where Chuck and Sarah are concerned, from the very start of the season.  But if we take Operation Awesome as a given, I could see it as a nice building block for a completely restored relationship in the very near future.  With the last couple scenes, the debriefing and the dinner, leading to a good conversation for Chuck and Sarah.  I think we’ve seen some trust and friendship restored these last couple weeks, and I would have loved to see a version of the “do you love me” discussion come within an episode or two of this ending.  That might even allow for some slower growing together than what canon provided (that is, just flipping the switch in Other Guy).

This has been a longer post than I expected!  Quite surprising considering I’ve had little to say about the episode itself.  Just as many of us find little objectionable about Operation Awesome itself, the fan fiction community has also paid it little attention.  I do believe Devon’s bear story has wound its way into a couple stories, but the only attempt I can think of to address this story has been from KateMcK again.  She really dove into making things right for Chuck and Sarah before the show got there.  In Chapter Three of “Chuck vs the Fight” she will had a couple of well conceived Sarah scenes.  These are maybe less explicitly Charah than some of her others, but they clearly move Chuck and Sarah into a better place.

I do apologize if much of this post was too negative.  It’s a little ironic considering this was such a good episode.  But the introduction of Daniel Shaw is a tough one.  The weeks ahead will get a little ugly I’m sure.  But I am still grateful for the writers and everyone who created this show and gave us 4+ seasons of dynamite entertainment.  But I also believe they badly lost their way at about the midpoint, and that’s where we are now.

~ Dave


About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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49 Responses to Season Three Alternatives: Operation Awesome

  1. aerox says:

    I know Zachary Levi gets a lot of kudos for the things he does, and I definitely think he’s a great guy, but the person whom I give most respect to has to be Routh, with regards to how he is as a person. He just seems like such a stand up guy, and I think it’s really sad that he’s been given a role that was so poorly received. I agree that parts were executed very poorly, but like you said Dave, I highly doubt he had any say whatsoever into his character. He was just there to play his part and get out.

    With that said though, I sorta enjoyed this episode. The bear story is arguably one of the most hilarious things they’ve ever done (I’m a sucker for silly humor like that, sue me) but the “Devon is a terrible spy” thing was imo overplayed. We got it after the first 2300 times. It started to drag a lot and was getting annoying to see. Also, the villain didn’t strike a cord (was it Alexis White? I can’t even remember) so all in all, a mediocre episode with one truly stand-out moment.

    • atcDave says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as to praise Routh so highly either though. He is stiff and shows little passion. Of course, some people are stiff and show little passion, so that doesn’t automatically make him wrong for the part. But I think the part as written, was too big and involved for a character the audience would never have any affection for.
      I can only say for certain that the writing of the part was horrible. The acting does nothing for me either way.

      I do agree entirely about Devon. I think his ineptitude as a spy was well played here, but it crossed the line into overdone and worn out quickly.

      • aerox says:

        I’m not saying his acting skills are all that (though I don’t think he’s bad) but rather his personality as a whole.

  2. aerox says:

    One thing I want to point out though, Dave:

    “But if we assume Shaw’s goal is to turn Chuck into a solo agent, and a deadly weapon; Casey, and especially Sarah, knowing Chuck better; and respecting Chuck for what he can actually be, should quickly prove to be the better team-mates.”

    But that seems contradictory in its own nature. If the objective was to turn him into a solo agent, then why team-mates? Especially team-mates who were very reluctant, to downright against, training Chuck as a solo agent. Chuck didn’t need a team-mate, he needed a mentor and that’s what Shaw was (or was supposed to be, anyhow).

    And when that wasn’t working very well, they could always just blow him up along with Castle ^^

    • atcDave says:

      Well my first thought is just that Chuck should never be a solo agent, and that’s exactly the sort of thing Casey and Sarah should know, that Shaw wouldn’t. He’s the ultimate team player, I love that about him. I would have loved seeing that as a point of contention in his training. And other things like it, all related to the idea Sarah and Casey know Chuck; they should respect his strengths and anticipate his weaknesses. Have Shaw just be the odd man out who wants something completely wrong for Chuck. Chuck will never function the way Shaw wants him to.

  3. anthropocene says:

    Another reason why Fulcrum was a more substantive enemy was that it was more explicitly interwoven with Chuck’s story. It may not have been Fulcrum’s sole raison d’etre, but Fulcrum was after the Intersect—whether by finding and capturing the Human Intersect, or by capturing its creator Steve B., or by creating its own version. Fulcrum had a direct hand in most of the pivotal events in Chuck’s life, especially in S2, and Fulcrum helped cement Team B’s value because they were the only agents who could hold their own against it. But the Ring, once it had superseded Fulcrum, was more Shaw’s foil than Chuck’s foil.

    • atcDave says:

      Well put. Although I’m not sure every big bad needs to tie back to Chuck on a personal level, they do need to at least be interesting or frightening in some way, and I’m not sure The Ring ever succeeded. Well at least not until the back arc; the conspiracy of trying to get Orion through Ellie was well conceived. But I think a problem remains in not having a really fun personality like Roark or Volkoff. Shaw was passable, but I think it was really a mistake to bring him back from the dead, and no one else attached the Ring was memorable.

  4. FSL says:

    I totally agree that they gave us false hope when Casey and Sarah defended Chuck against Shaw, plus the dinner ending. It would have been so much more fun going forward with Chuck and Sarah rebuilding their relationship.

    Your moron Shaw idea is great. I can imagine a weekly Casey moment where he tells Shaw “We’re the best in the world. Don’t let the door hit you on our way out”.

    And again, still a fan of the secret relationship route. Could be potentially funny to see him come up with ways to hit on Sarah without blowing Chuck’s “cover relationship”.

    • atcDave says:

      I love that FSL! Shaw thinking the cover relationship is JUST a cover and thinking he has a shot with Sarah could have been so funny. I mentioned a while ago how the scene from Final Exam of Chuck on a window ledge in a towel (and err, not in a towel…) could have been so funny if it had a part of something good like this. Like Chuck and Sarah trying to hide that they are “together” when Shaw shows up to hit on Sarah; while Chuck is attracting too much attention. I imagine the Police and Fire Department showing up outside the hotel to “help” Chuck while Sarah is trying to get rid of Shaw before he notices what’s going on outside the window. Then of course, once he leaves, they need to get Chuck back inside and quiet things down so Shaw doesn’t notice what all the commotion was when he leaves.
      Sorry, my imagination gets carried away sometimes!

      Uplink’s S3 story does have the secret relationship and Shaw hitting on Sarah. But no window ledge scene.

  5. Justin says:

    In my version of S3 in which Chuck and Sarah are in a secret romantic relationship, I would have Shaw’s presence shake things up for the couple. Sarah doesn’t trust Shaw, thinking that Beckman may have assigned him to the team, among other reasons, to spy on her and Chuck to see if they are covertly together and to get in the way of that. But Chuck develops a bond with Shaw that puts him and Sarah on opposing sides. Before Shaw was a CIA field agent, Shaw was a brainy analyst despite appearances. Shaw sees in Chuck the man he was before he became more experienced as a spy and lost his innocence. So he has a mutual understanding with Chuck that fuels their mentor-student relationship. Like Chuck, he fell for a CIA agent and they fought against the reputations to be together and got married. Then years ago, his wife got killed. It is Shaw’s suspicion that the Ring might have been involved which is why he is determined to take the organization down. While Chuck sees in Shaw qualities as a spy he wish to have, he also sees things in him that make him fear what may await him and Sarah in the future of their romantic relationship. Will he one day lose Sarah during a mission? Will he end up being obsessed with revenge, clinging to a past that is already gone? Is becoming a spy worth such a tragic fate? This version of Shaw wouldn’t want to isolate Chuck from his other teammates but does want to push Chuck into more independent and relying more on his wits than expecting to be always saved by the Intersect or his other teammates. Chuck needs to learn this to stay alive in the spy world. Shaw also sees in Chuck the potential of being the perfect weapon against the Ring so he is driven by a personal agenda as well.

    • atcDave says:

      I like a lot of that Justin. I always think the secret relationship is full of so much comic potential, but obviously the situation allows for plenty of drama too. Chuck needs the balance of both to work for me, and what you suggest would be a good way of doing it.

      • Justin says:

        Thank you. After giving it some thought, I very much believe that Chuck and Sarah are having a secret relationship in S3 is the path the show should have taken. That way, you have them being together satisfying many fans of the show who have yearned for that to happen but at the same time, there’s a dramatic tension similar to will-they/won’t they about whether they will be able to be together openly instead of in secret that will keep the audience engaged. And, like you said, the secret relationship has comic and dramatic potential.

      • oldresorter says:

        The thing is, the secret relationship could have contained an element of Sarah being very worried that Chuck is ‘changing’, no longer ‘her’ Chuck. The ‘Red Test’ could also have gone down about how it did. the horrible ending to the Morgan ep, Shaw could have attempted to assasinate Chuck alone, with Sarah, Casey, and Chuck arriving opposite directions just as Shaw was giving the order. Even some of Fake Name could have gone on as is, the hotel scene could have been pretty angsty, without being downright stupid if Chuck and Sarah were in a secret relationship.

        The most ardent shippers (like me) might not have liked it, but the key for Chuck was to hold the middle base of the fans, and I think that story would have worked for most, to the point, the show would not have lost near the number of fans, and NO critics. Because, really, when the critics turn from loving you to lets say ‘not loving’ you, as a show, you’re doing something wrong.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah Jason there’s still a lot of things they could have done that I might not have liked, but if I just hadn’t HATED the show for so much of the season it would have been an improvement. S4 and S5 both had episodes I wasn’t nuts about, yet I consider them strong seasons anyway. I am certain I would have been far more patient with drama and darker themes if there had been more joy and hope in the Charah relationship.

  6. garnet says:

    The worst of it is that the deleted scenes from season 3 suggest that there had been a possibility that they were heading in the direction of a secret relationship, with Sarah suspicious of Shaw’s motives. I agree with those who say that it would have been much more fun to watch. Some of the best FF for season 3 that I have read takes this tack.

  7. oldresorter says:

    In no particular order:

    Interesting that the first scene Shaw gets shot dead, and the last scene too, except he is alive in both cases. It’s the kind of symetry Chuck does well. One of the many things that in theory could have been great, but was bulldozed by the 8 or 9 or 10 unhappy episodes in a row.

    Shaw to the show chuck reminds me of the ‘bad penny’ idea or the ugly pair of shoes that won’t wear out, or the one pair of gloves you never lose.

    I never warmed up to this episode, I am not big on the humor part of Chuck that isn’t related to Chuck or Sarah, I tolerate it, if I am enjoying the Chuck and Sarah story. This ep gets worse for me over time, as it begins the Shaw arc. I found his execution of Bristow, along with his silly getting killed then revived, along with his ‘ring’ expertise all to be nausiating, in no particular order. The key in writing a good character is to make them have some redeeming qualities, even if thoroughly evil or bad or whatever. Even when Shaw was a good guy, he was sickening.

    In Dexter, many fans compare Hannah McCay to Shaw. I watched just the scenes she was in this past season, she was very Sarah Walkerish in those scenes, sweet as can be. I don’t think she would poison anyone – LOL or should I say Muhahaha. I found the same thing when watching other fav actors changing jobs, it takes a little while to get warmed up to the new character. I loved her in Dexter, wish Dexter and the girl with the foul mouth both buy the farm, and the show changes its name to Hannah. although Yvonne should be able to do better.

    Speaking of doing better, just saw Guilt Trip, Yvonne has a very small role, I wonder what defines a cameo, that’s what the role felt like. She did OK, but honestly, had nothing to do. Too bad, the movie would have been better with her and Colin Hanks going on the trip, as it was, a completely terrible movie, cringeworthy.

    I worry that Yvonne is not getting further along. I hope some Tv series nabs her up as the lead, she needs to do an action oriented rom com and soon. Wish she would have gotten Beauty and the Beast or the Black Canary on Arrow! Oh well.

    • atcDave says:

      I certainly do agree with disliking Shaw from the very start, but I’m okay(ish) with this episode otherwise. As I said, I think if they hadn’t ever tried to make a “hero” out of him (and obviously no Sham) it would have been a much more enjoyable season. The writers needed to embrace the contempt we felt for him and use it to the advantage of the story; not to its detriment like we got.

    • oldresorter,

      Yvonne is doing fine post-Chuck. Her Broadway debut back in December was a smashing success and she received rave reviews from the critics. It was a very, very challenging role (her character was a very damaged woman of the 1930’s) and she was almost unrecognizable in the role. She did an amazing job (I saw the play twice). In comparison, two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain recently made her Broadway debut as well and received mixed reviews. So the fact that Yvonne impressed the critics so much is a huge accomplishment.

      Also, I don’t see many similarities in Yvonne’s portrayals of Hannah and Sarah. She played Sarah was much more warmth than Hannah and her line delivery/body language/expressions are quite different in the two roles.

      • oldresorter says:

        Jenny thx for reminding me of the broadway performance, you are right of course, she was a star! I might not agree with you about Hannah, but I’d like to think you’re right and I’m wrong. One of my fav new shows is revenge, and the first couple of eps I could not get Amy Abbott out of my mind while watching Emily Thorn raise you know what in the Hamptons, so the flaw is in me more than likely.

        As I said, just watched Guilt Trip, and was disappointed in the role, hence the comment. I did not mean to upset you or anyone, and only wish the best for Yvonne. I also don’t think the Clive Owen film went well either. I’d simply like to see her get a good TV role where she can show more of what she can do for her fans on TV, hence the ‘worry’ for Yvonne.

        Time will tell. The business she is in is not easy! And every year someone like Jennifer Lawrence shows up knocking everything they touch out of the park.

      • oldresorter,

        The Guilt Trip and Killer Elite were films she squeezed in during her hiatuses, so I don’t think too much of it. I think she’ll do fine after Dexter wraps up though. She has the female lead in I, Frankenstein, so we’ll have to see how that one does, if it ever comes out. LOL.

  8. uplink2 says:

    I’m on vacation and on my phone but a couple of things. We will get into more of Epithet later but I want to point out whether he is the greatest person in the universe is irrelevant to the fact he is a weak and limited actor. I like to think I’m a great guy but I would have sucked in the role and so did Rough. Sorry my friend but pointing out how you see him has nothing to do with his job performance. It was awful and to a viewer that is all we should care about. Also though the role was horribly constructed, none of that is relevant to how much chemistry the actors have. Chemistry isn’t written the actors have it or they don’t. In both of Rouths roles I have seen he had none with either actress. He may be a likable guy but is a very unlikable actor.
    I wonder if this so was the last of the original concept with Bruce. It’s where he comes back and the original plan for all the angst to be gone before the Stake Date that was originally planned as a real date got changed after this episode was written. The tone certainly changes with the new relationship reset next week.

    • uplink2 says:

      Sorry for the typos. Never posted from my phone.

    • atcDave says:

      I would be interested in how the main story changed at different times. We already kicked around the idea of Bryce in S3, but we also know Routh’s contract was extended twice. I would guess the second time was for the back arc. But the first time? I’m not sure what the truncated Shaw role would have been. Obviously, to me the big thing is his involvement with Sarah was repulsive, but I’m not sure if that would have been changed or not.
      Oh well, the bottom line is, the character was a disaster for many of us. Just poorly conceived, written and performed. Whatever all the reasons might have been.

    • uplink2 says:

      Shaw is possibly the single most destructive character ever written for a show. Poorly conceived, poorly executed and poorly cast. It’s amazing how much damage this character did and not in a good way. I still find it fascinating they never speak of him except for post villain Shaw. But I suppose that is as close to admitting he was a total failure as they can get. Most of even the biggest S3 apologists agree he was a failure. I will never understand why he got extended unless it was as the story was written because as soon as Mask was shot the crew and editors had to see it wasn’t working.

      When I get back I want to talk about a comparison with how TPTB from The Good Wife reacted to a storyline the fans were rejecting. Maybe it was too late for Chuck but TGW saw it and shortened it admitting the fans hated it. I just have to believe the crew editors and directors saw it before it aired. How could they not?

      • atcDave says:

        The situation with Chuck was both different and the same. The biggest difference being that the season was almost done, and the misery arc was done, before TPTB knew just how big a PR problem they had. Fedak did try to defend Shaw as a great spy, hero, and good fit for Sarah; but he gave up. The audience largely never bought into it, so they shut up about it. Schwartz made the comment after Mask “we’ve already moved passed that” which I think is telling; he was apparently not willing or interested in defending the character or arc any further.
        But where I think Chuck was the same was the outcry against the misery arc started before a single scene had been shot, at Comic Con 2009. Now to be fair, I can easily imagine the writers thinking “they might not like it now, but wait ’till they see it!” (heh, heh) I have no doubt, Schwedak thought they could pull off an epic story and we’d all be dazzled and forget all of our complaints. I think this sort of thing is actually not uncommon. Writers, and other artists, need some level of confidence in their vision. But I think the disconnect was that they simply didn’t understand what many of us were watching for. It wasn’t ever about Chuck and Sarah being together in the end, I was pretty confident of that. It was enjoying a fun ride, and seeing the interplay of two such appealing, yet different personalities. The idea of seeing the beauty and the nerd learn to be partners, friends and lovers. Yet they chose a story that mostly kept them apart until the very end. It fundamentally was not the show I wanted to see.
        So I think the bottom line is; Schwedak DID figure out where they’d gone wrong, AFTER it was too late to change anything. But they SHOULD have known better. If they’d actually been paying attention to their audience they would have understood the show many fans were eager to see was NOT the show they decided to make in S3. Even a casual reading of the Chuck forums late in S2 would have shown fans were excited about things that were quite different from what they planned to deliver in S3. And the reaction at Comic Con SHOULD have shown they needed to honor their audience (and characters!) a little better. I honestly can’t even believe how isolated and clueless they must have been to expand the Shaw story.

    • aerox says:

      Uplink, I like you a great deal, but can you please stop proclaiming your opinion to be truth? Because by saying that he’s a ‘weak and limited actor’, you’re making it out to be some sort of universal fact. As a matter of fact, I liked him a great deal in his role. Did I think there were parts that could’ve been better? Sure. But at the end of the day, I think he did a decent job with a (what seems to be a very) rushed role.

      Besides, I only found out what kind of a person he was after his stint on Chuck and I had already re-watched Season 3 a boatload of times before that.

      • uplink2 says:

        My friend Aerox, I thought it went without saying that everything posted here is just the authors opinion. I didn’t think we needed to qualify it every time we posted. There may be any number of folks that liked him in the role. But I clearly didn’t. Plus the chemistry issue is almost universal. He had none with Yvonne. He had none with Kate Bosworth in Superman. Also look at what happened there. It is widely acknowledged he got the role mainly because he looks so much like Chris Fervently. Even Chris’s wife said it. Plus they purposely waited till his contract was up before doing another reboot and cast another actor for the role. To me he was stiff and wooden in that role with none of Reeves charm. A common thread with Shaw vis a via Bruce and Cole.

        Plus in his signature moment, the cage scene, he was dreadful. Emotionless, no sense of struggle or conflict, no sense of triumph for avenging his wife. Just dry, flat, wooden acting. So yes thus is just my opinion but it is shared with a very large part of the fanbase. Plus a critic I respect a great deal. So IMO Routh is a weak and limited actor who only did a decent performance once they created a limited character, Shaw the villain.

      • uplink2 says:

        Again sorry for my phone auto correct. Of course I’m talking about Chris Reeve. But one final point Schwedak acknowledged they were enamored with who Routh wad. Stunt casting drove that decision. Too bad it didn’t translate on screen.

      • atcDave says:

        Aerox I do believe Uplink’s opinion is very common in this fandom. I would neither agree nor disagree with it, my own objections are at an arc/story level. But no doubt, anti-Routh sentiment runs very high among Chuck fans. I don’t believe it’s meant to be personal, but obviously criticizing the talent of a professional always gets close to that line.

        And the 2×4 humor is often quite funny…

      • aerox says:

        “I want to point out whether he is the greatest person in the universe is irrelevant to the fact he is a weak and limited actor.”


        “Sorry my friend but pointing out how you see him has nothing to do with his job performance.”

        are both opinions, phrased as facts. They may be facts for you, but like I said, that sentiment, while echoed by many, is not the universal truth. Yes, it’s known that every opinion is the author’s and that there are (usually) no facts implied, but the way these things are phrased, and have been phrased for a while, makes it appear that whomever holds a different opinion is ‘wrong’.

        Also, chemistry is something that has to come from two sides. And it’s hard to attribute something as undefinable as ‘chemistry’ (I’m assuming you mean that the two play well off each other) to simple acting talent.

        Take Jason Dohring in Veronica Mars for example. I think he’s pretty bad as an actor (or at least in VM, since that’s the only of his work that I have seen). His lines (minus the extremely snarky ones) are delivered in what amounts to a lackluster approach and I literally cringed when he ‘broke down’ and cried in Kristen Bell’s arms. But at the same time, I think that Dohring and Bell have insane chemistry and play superbly off each other.

      • garnet says:

        I am in the camp that really wanted to like Routh in this, and even watched the video where he talks about being excited to be a part of Chuck (and as I recall lokked excited). But even I will grant that he was only effective as a villian. I think he made a great villian in part because we despised him SO much by that point. Returning after season 3 well that is a real head scratcher to me, I would have thought that TPTB would have learned something about how he had been received

      • atcDave says:

        CF made the comment about Santa Suit that Shaw was a villain the fans “loved to hate.” I think he was wrong, I think most of us would have been happiest to never see him again. Volkoff was more like a villain I loved to hate.

        But yeah Garnet there’s no doubt he worked better as a villain. Both late S3 and again in Santa Suit, he was an acceptable baddie. But both times I think I would have liked it better with just a whole different villain.

      • uplink2 says:

        I think that bringing back Shaw was simply because HE wanted to do it. Shaw had absolutely nothing to do with the overarching storyline of Season 5. Having him behind the conspiracy was a pretty pathetic cop out in terms of storytelling. There are more plot holes in that one than in about anything else they ever did. It was a very weak stretch so that he could bring him back one more time knowing full well that a large part of the fanbase wanted no part of a return. Plus he couldn’t even kill him off like many folks wanted him to. Having Chuck run to Ellie and not to his dying wife really bothered me.

        But to a point you made up thread Dave what I don’t get in terms of the difference between what TGW did vs Schedak is even though the season hadn’t aired yet, couldn’t they, the editors, the directors or the writers see how badly things were playing out on screen? I find it impossible for me to believe anyone could watch Mask and say that episode/story works. That there is any chemistry between Sarah and Shaw. Besides they already had the deleted scene in the can, why not reedit the episodes before they aired and recut them to play on that distrust idea? Rewrites happen all the time and I don’t get why no one was screaming that the emperor Shaw had no clothes. As you said Shaw comes off as creepy from the first moment he is on screen. He never comes off as the “perfect spy, hero and good match for Sarah.” Plus Sarah’s involvement with him diminishes her on so many levels.

        In the case of TGW they saw the fans were not at all interested in that storyline and “shortened” it. They did what they had to do to end it as fast as possible. It’s what should have happened with Shaw. Reveal the big secret much earlier, have Sarah distrust him like the great spy she used to be before this awful storyline and make him the villain without making Sarah stupid in the process.

        I don’t think they had to apologize for what they did but they should have admitted, like TGW showrunners did, that it didn’t work. Hero Shaw failed for a number of reasons. But the fact of the matter is that it did fail. Why not stand up and admit the story they chose and executed didn’t work. It might have gotten them a little more trust come the finale.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree with most of your observations Uplink. Why things were never fixed, I don’t know exactly. But I would guess it starts with TPTB just not seeing the problem the same way we do. Even at this site, we have another whole set of posts from people who don’t see the problem like you and I do. So I would expect Schwedak were convinced they’d created something wonderful, and the problem was with us who didn’t agree. And by the time they knew the discontent was pretty widespread it was too late to make major changes. Schwartz’ comment about “we’ve moved passed it” is telling. They were on to the next thing, and didn’t consider it a big deal if some of us disliked a couple episodes. I do think that’s a bit of professional/fan disconnect; because of how they relate to the show differently than we do, it’s easier for them to just dismiss a clunker story, and not feel the frustration or see the damage to character the way we viewers do.
        From a technical perspective I can’t imagine retooling an episode is a big deal at all. Movies are often re-edited, multiple times after release. Obviously television is done on the cheap by comparison. But even so, I would think it would have been technically feasible to re-edit over the Olympic break of there had been any real motive to do so. They still had all the cast and sets available too. But we know the schedule and push to get things done, and cheaply, is strong. So I imagine, if there was any discussion on the topic at all, it probably went about 10 seconds and ended with “let’s not open that can of worms…”
        Pity. I would still love to see a ‘shipper edit of S3. But I think getting a new Chuck movie is both more important, and a million times more likely.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I agree that Schwartz’s comment is very telling but the problem is that it comes off as incredibly arrogant. That adds to the disconnect that fans were feeling. Then when you couple it with Fedak’s incredibly clueless comment about not putting a book down after chapter 7 shows a real lack of PR savvy on their part. An BTW Chris, it wasn’t chapter 7 it was chapter 42 and there is a HUGE difference there.

      • atcDave says:

        I agree it came across as arrogant. But I suspect there is some realistic fatalism in there too, that is, I suspect there was no will from anyone involved to go to the trouble of really thinking about what they could do.
        And I think my own thoughts on it are a bit jumbled up. But I guess what I’m saying is, it probably wouldn’t have been too terribly difficult to re-edit, tone down the most offensive parts of the story, maybe even shoot a quick new scene or two (while cast and sets were all there and available) at the time of the Olympic break.
        But I think schedules and budgets were so tight, they likely just thought “we’re done with it, they’ll all like what comes next, so let’s not sweat it…”
        It will just always be frustrating to me because I truly hate the misery arc so much, and I can imagine some pretty minor “fixes” making it a lot less troubling. But television is just never done that way. So many shows have messed up arcs or characters that fans despise. And it’s just a part of the legacy of the show. We’re just stuck with it.
        You’d mentioned earlier you didn’t think any apologies were necessary, but I think to me they are. I know the show will never be redone to my liking (and as I’ve mentioned before, I’d rather new, forward moving content at this point anyway). But I sure would like to hear Schwedak just admit their chosen story for S3 was a failure, that they did not do right by the fans. I don’t know why it matters to me, but it does. I am quite bitter about what they did to the show and characters; basically they produced such a different product I would NOT have fought to save the show if I had known what they intended to do next. The only relief I have on the subject is that I was pretty happy with the show again from Other Guy on. It was only one botched story, but it left a very bad taste.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave, I don’t think we are saying it that much differently. I don’t think an apology is necessary because they made a story and casting choice that probably seemed right on paper at the time. Whether it was a business decision or a creative one they made a choice that I can if I strain myself see could have some merit. Now I’m not at all talking about it from an entertainment POV but if you look at the basic premise, Chuck decides to be a spy because of what Sarah told him about himself, he tries to be worthy of her, she freaks at the idea of her being a part of changing this perfect man into her or Casey. They bring in a new mentor to jumble up the team dynamic and make Chuck into the perfect spy weapon the government paid for. They “stunt cast” someone from the superhero genre and even bring in his “ex-girlfriend” from another part of the genre and end it with Sarah having killed his wife. I can see how that could have come across as a good idea on the white board in the writers room. So for that I don’t think an apology is needed even if I hate the idea. They made a choice to go darker and though I don’t like that choice for many reasons including the entertainment value, it can be construed at least minimally as a legitimate choice.

        But the problem is that the execution failed, the writing was at times awful, it was contrived and manipulative, yes the stunt casting at least in one role failed miserably and the OLI geometry was a complete and total disaster. For all of that I would have liked to see a more clear admission that “yes we had what we thought was a great idea, but we screwed up and it simply didn’t work.” Now maybe some folks say that season 4 and 5 is that admission and maybe that’s all we can hope for but to me I would just like for either of them to one day say that “hero Shaw” failed miserably and the trapezoid was a disaster and a huge mistake. Don’t just deflect everything about season 3 to post villain Shaw but talk about how sometimes things that sound great on paper don’t translate on to the screen, That is why the discussions about intent in the other threads are just so unappealing and yes, irrelevant to me. Intent doesn’t matter if it isn’t shown on screen. You have failed. I used this analogy before but this is not kids soccer where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up “intending” to win. All I can base my judgement on is what I see and how I react to it and that is where I think TPTB needed to step up and admit they didn’t do a very good job. They, and yes this probably too strong a term I admit, dishonored the trust the fans who fought for them put in them. If they had done that I think I would have cut them some slack. But instead they come across as arrogant and clueless. So I guess maybe I am asking for an apology but not really in the same terms, it is more an admission that they didn’t do a very good job on many levels.

      • atcDave says:

        I think the only real difference is what we’re saying is that to me, the love triangle is the one single thing that sticks in my craw. I have a dozen other gripes with the season, but its the love triangles, that they’d already done before, that just steam me up. I probably could have overlooked everything else; or at least been able to make some peace with it, but that one thing still gets me…

  9. Jason says:

    Castle went to the ‘angst’ well last night. Not playing too well with fans, with both leads getting trashed a little bit for being OOC, I assume the writers will not be far behind. I’m an apologetic Castle fan, I like how the show is written, and I liked last night. I will observe this about last night and compare to Chuck s3, part of the issue is ‘would the characters do that?’ and part of the issue is ‘what do the writers have in mind to fix it?’. I don’t think s3 Chuck passed either test, with the fix not being worth the 12 episodes of unhappiness. Will be interesting to see how Castle proceeds after last night. On top of everything else, castle aired out of order, since next week’s ep hits close to the Boston terrorism, so things won’t get better for Castle and Beckett for a while, my guess is not until the end of the season, when they get engaged! Sort of flimsy ‘I’m losing you so lets get married’, but it is TV.

    My other Monday TV show, Revolution, the lead actress had a great observation when asked about things heating up with her co-star, something along the lines, this is tv, something will keep us apart the whole way through. In the case of Revolution, I think she is right, in the case of Chuck, fans had to stomach a half of season of unhappiness.

    • atcDave says:

      I think the whole “because its TV” is what needs to change. I mean, of course there will be drama and hardship, that’s what makes it fun sometimes. At least in appropriate doses. But I wish more television writers would be more willing to progress a relationship through believable stages, and not be so scared of certain stages. Most significantly, bringing the couple together. Obviously the story changes some at that point, but current writers act like its the end of the story.
      We really were fortunate on Chuck that they did eventually take that plunge and write something a little more sophisticated than normal. I’ve been mostly pleased with how Castle has handled it too, although obviously the jury is still out there. If things do get rough until the end of the season, well, there really isn’t that much season left. So it still can’t be as bad as a twelve (!) episode misery arc (what were they thinking…)

      • Jason says:

        A great topic, ‘this is tv’ that is. The angst of WT/WT needs to be replaced with something that can tug on the viewer’s emotions the whole way thru, on multiple levels, anger on the writers or the couple, happiness, aw-shucks sweetness, etc. I don’t know if any show has figured this out for any extended period of time.

        I don’t think Chuck, as much as I prefer’d the show with CS coupled up, ever quite managed to recapture the complex emotion again for any length of time with a compelling storyline. I get the feeling ‘Undercovers’ had it coming, there was some secret between the couple, related to the spy life, that had not come out.

        But with a WT/WT, is front and center, near every scene, every gesture, every comment can be interpreted as meaning something. I simply don’t know what replaces it while retaining the epic, complex, and interesting drama.

        But, if you do couple them up, and you do write drama, you probably need to ask the 2 questions I asked, are they acting in character and how will it resolve itself? Chuck’s final two eps, the characters might have acted in character, maybe, and the resolution might have been OK, maybe, although neither was epic, neither was awful either. By and large the end passed the test. I thought fans deserved more, but that was me.

        But in s3, even the most ardent apologist needs to go to the Good Intentions Well and essentially write fanfiction to rationalize the story, because what was on screen failed.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah I agree with pretty much all of that Jason. Although I think the big problem many shows have with making that big shift is that they do it too late. Thinkling often mentioned how shows don’t pair up the couple until they’re running out of ideas for the main story anyway; so gee, big surprise, just pairing them off doesn’t reinvigorate the show (beyond a one or two episode bump for the “big event”).
        That may have been something that didn’t happen with Chuck, but I would add a problem we did see. The finale act of the wt/wt game was ugly enough it scared off many of the viewers who would have most liked the episodes that came later. I understand its all a difficult balancing act to decide how best to manage this. But currently on television, I think it’s more often handled poorly than well.

      • uplink2 says:

        Dave and Jason I also agree with much of that. It is a difficult balancing act to extract the drama and conflict necessary to sustain the interest of the audience. But in the case of Chuck the problem came that not only did the storyline fail, it also damaged the main characters to such an extent that many simply lost interest in the outcome of the pairing. Also the story choice did not enhance the relationship one bit. They simply didn’t earn the payoff. The misery and failures of the story choices and execution made the moment feel dishonest. It was a great moment but a moment of relief that it was over and NOT that it was deserved. People were willing to allow the incredible sweeping under the rug of major issues simply to see Chuck and Sarah finally together and Shaw to finally be gone or we thoughts.

  10. I would just like to pick up on what was being discussed earlier on in the debate about the comparison with the good wife. It was stated that TPTB changed things because of fan reaction to what was happening. Now I have no idea of how long the lead time was between episodes for that show but we do know that shooting on Chuck was very rapid, the budgets had been cut from season 2. I do not think Warners would have allowed them to change even if they had wanted to. It must also be considered that the GW showrunners did not see the problems that the fans did either
    At this time we did not like the way the season had started with Chuck and Sarah being so seperated but the problem for most of the fans I think came with Mask and when that aired on feb 8th we know thanks to Zacs live twitcast while fimling Honeymooners that was done on the 29 jan. I think that Chris and Josh did think they were past it as they were now in the back half. I therefore do not think they are arrogant, just accurate. They also know that Chuck is going to realise that he is wrong at the end of Mask and that will start the process of fixing things, even though it will be slower than we want.
    This is not to say that I like most of what they did in early season 3 and the whole Shaw thing was badly wriiten but I do not think that it destroyed the characters as much as some. I was always more disappointed in Chucks actions, in the first two seasons he would do anything to avoid hurting people, yet in the beginning of this one he hurts Sarah somone he said he was in love with. He then never is seen as trying to fix things with Sarah. Sarah is seen as reacting to Chucks actions she talks about fixing things, being friends and supporting him with Awesome. All Chuck does is flirt with Hannah, and then make the same mistake that he did with Jill when he effectively threw Sarah under the bus to start something with Hannah.
    The PTB certainly did know fan reaction after Mask aired and NBC did release the Trailer with the Shaw punch and the DYLM scene to try and get viewers to be patient.
    And @uplink2 ref your point about it being chapter 42 not 7, surely that makes CFs point even more as I would give up on a book after ch 7 if I did not like 4 or 5 chapters but I can not imagine giving up after 42 chapters if i did not like the last 4 or five.

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t think anyone has ever suggested anything on Chuck was changed because of fan fiction. I seriously doubt anyone involved in writing or producing the show was familiar with that community at all. I think it’s a professional issue, that they want no appearance of copying anything. And by the time it all hit the fan (after Mask) they were well into the back arc episodes. So from their perspective, they knew it would pass.
      Now for the record, a little bit of confidence is a good thing. I think for writers it helps pursue a story that may start off difficult, it gives them courage to tell the occasional less popular story. And sometimes it’s good to do that, it keeps tension and drama higher on a show if we know sometimes things don’t work right. But it crosses the line into arrogance when they take a whole show in a direction they know will be unpopular for most of a season. And they did know. Before day one of filming they did know. When they have to start begging their audience to trust them and stick with them, they’ve gone too far. And they were pleading at Comic Con before the cast had even had a first read through. THAT is arrogance and hubris. And whether the quote was about chapter 7 or 42 is somewhat beside the point; if a writer has to beg an audience to stick with him, he’s screwed up. Simple.

  11. First Impression says:

    Chuck freaking out about Devon’s kidnapping was a nice reminder of the old Chuck. Angie Harmon was fabulous as Sydney. Devon’s cover story for Sarah about decapitating a bear was absolutely hilarious. I had to rewatch that scene before I could go on.   

    First impression of Shaw: arrogant jerk. Beckman gives total command authority to Shaw on any mission involving the Ring.  Casey: Really? This guy?  (My thoughts exactly.) 

    They want to use Devon to capture Sydney, but Chuck smartly breaks out on his own and calls Sydney who comes to him at the Buy More.  He calls for Sarah and Casey, but Shaw shuts them down. Jerk!  

    Dinner at Chuck’s with the gang.  Shaw watches from a video feed.  Puts on a wedding band. There may be a story behind it, but I’m just not interested.

    • atcDave says:

      Just not interested is the nicest thing anyone ever said about Shaw…

      This really is a solid episode, fun in all the ways that is Chuck at its best. And that’s the last time I’ll say that for a while!

  12. Pingback: Episode of the Week: Chuck vs Operation Awesome (3.04) | Chuck This

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